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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                     229

News that sounded absurd spread through the sana-
torium: the footless airman had taken up dancing. As
soon as Zinochka finished her duties in the reception-
room she would find her pupil waiting for her in the cor-
ridor. He would bring her a bunch of wild flowers, or
else some chocolate, or an orange he had saved from
dinner. Zinochka would gravely take his arm and they
would walk to the recreation hall, which was deserted
in the summer, and where the diligent pupil had already
shifted the card tables and the ping-pong table to the
wall. Zinochka would gracefully demonstrate a new fig-
ure. With contracted eyebrows, the airman would watch
the intricate designs she traced on the floor with her
small, pretty feet. Then the girl, with a grave face, would
clap her hands and begin to count:
"One, two, three—one, two, three, glissade to the
right!... One, two, three—one, two, three, glissade to
the left!... Turn! That's right! One, two, three—one,
two, three----Now serpent! Let's do it together."
Perhaps it was the task of teaching a footless man to
dance, something that neither Bob Gorokhov nor Paul
Sudakovsky had ever done; perhaps she had taken a
liking to her dark, raven-haired pupil with the bantering
eyes; perhaps for both reasons—but be that as it may,
she devoted all her spare time and all her soul to the
In the evenings, when the sandy river-bank, the volley-
ball field and the skittle alley were deserted and dancing
became the favourite recreation of the patients, Alexei
would unfailingly participate in the revels. He danced
well, did not miss a single dance, and more than once
his teacher regretted that she had bound him to those
strict terms. Couples whirled round the room to the tune
of an accordion. With flushed face and eyes flashing
with excitement, Meresyev performed all the glissades,
serpents, turns and points and led his light-footed part-
ner with the flaming locks with agility, and seemingly
without effort. And none who watched this gallant dancer
could even guess what he did when he left the room
now and again*